Octet in F Major, Op.80
For Two Violins, Viola, Cello, Flute, Clarinet, Horn and Bassoon
Heinrich Hofmann (1842-1902) was born in Berlin and studied there at the Neue Akademie der Tonkunst with the Theodor Kullak and Siegfried Dehn. At first, he embarked upon a career as a pianist and teacher. However, by the late 1860's, his operas and his choral and orchestral works began to achieve great success and for the next two decades, he was one of the most often performed composers in Germany and much of Europe. Success came at a price. Although hailed by some critics, such as Hermann Mendel, as a of real talent and one of the most important emerging composers of his time, many others, jealous of his rocketing success or determined to protect their favorites (such as Eduard Hanslick was of Brahms), derided him for his "fashionable eclecticism". While his works broke no new ground, on the other hand, they were masterfully conceived, beautiful and well-executed. This is especially true of his chamber music. Besides this Octet, he composed a Piano Trio, a Piano Quartet, a String Sextet and several smaller works.
The Op.80 Octet dates from 1883 and was his last chamber music work. It is in four movements and shows him to be not only a gifted melodist but also skilled in writing for and blending together both string and wind instruments. From the player's perspective, each instrument is given a grateful part to play. The four movement work opens with a flowing Allegro molto, the main theme full of charm. In the second movement, Andante sostenuto, the winds are given the responsibility of presenting the stately first subject. In this lovely movement, Hofmann's skills are amply on display as he creates a gorgeous tone poem. A Gavotte, which begins in baroque fashion, follows. The composer cleverly switches from the Baroque to the Romantic and back again in seamless fashion. The upbeat finale, Allegro vivo, is a celebratory affair, full of good spirits.
This wonderful Octet certainly deserves to be presented to concert audiences who are sure to appreciate it. It is a work we can recommend to both professionals and amateurs alike. Long out of print, we are very pleased to make it available once again.